Skip to content
I know that there isn't any word that probably turns a family upside-down quite as much as the word "cancer" and it doesn't matter which form of cancer it is, it's just drastic because you don't know all of the implications of it.
Maybe someday we will. Maybe someday we'll know how people get it and we'll be able to cure it with a vaccine. But so far what we have are some mechanisms for putting it into rescission. And one of the reasons I know how upsetting that is and how it turns the world upside-down is 3 3/4 years ago now my wife was diagnosed with colon cancer.  And she had had screenings, but she listened to her body. She said, something's the matter here and she kept going to doctors. So even if they don't recommend the screenings, if your body is saying something is the matter, pursue it until you're either convinced that nothing's the matter or a doctor finds what the matter is.  That's the advice that she gives to everybody. And these are things that need to be between the patient and the doctor.
Now that she's in remission, one of the things that the doctor recommended was that she take Celebrex. That's something that's normally for arthritic pain. But what they've found is that in some patients that will keep polyps growing that will turn into cancer in the colon. And we definitely don’t want that to reoccur again. She's taking that. But it's a constant fight making sure that's an approved medication and that it can be done and that it will be paid for.
If that were just a task force recommendation, first of all, since her screening, they would say she doesn't have a problem. And later she would die from it. But she was able to listen to her body, get the treatment that she needed, and now is continuing to get the treatment without a task force saying, “No, 99% of the people don't need that.” Her doctor and she are able to determine what she needs.
On other screenings, once you have cancer, there are other times that you need to have M.R.I.s and other kinds of tests run. That again has to be up to the doctor and the patient to determine how often those are. And, again, I know from talking to a number of people that I know -- not just ladies either -- that have had cancer, that once you've had cancer and you're in remission, you would actually prefer to have your screening just a little bit earlier for the mental reassurance that you get with it.
Again from talking to people -- and we talk to more now because we're trying to give some reassurance to them when this terrible word comes up, that when they go to the doctor, one of the first things that happens is they weigh you and they take your blood pressure. And when you're waiting for a decision on how the blood tests you got or the M.R.I. or whatever it was is coming out, that blood pressure just goes through the roof.  You went there for the information, so of course, you stay for the information. But they won't let you leave until they do the blood pressure test again to make sure that it goes down below the critical stage. That's how much impact this has on people.  So I'm really glad that did you something that goes a little bit further, covers a few more things, and makes sure that people are going to have access to their doctor, to the tests that they need, and not be relying on some government bureaucracy to say, ”Well, in 99% of the cases or 85% of the cases…” Who knows how far down they take it, depending on what the costs are. And we just don't want that to happen.
I think that your amendment allows patients to get these preventive benefits and stops government bureaucrats and outside experts from ever blocking patients' access to those types of service. I appreciate the senator from Maryland, who put up an amendment. I don't think it meets that standard. They still rely on government experts called the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force to decide what preventive benefits should be covered under the private health insurance.  It's the same Preventive Services Task Force that made this decision that under the age of 50 should not receive annual mammograms.  In fact, I think I even remember in there that they weren't necessarily recommending self-examination.  Most of the people that I know that are really young discovered it with self-examination, and I certainly wouldn't want them to quit doing that because there's a recommendation from somebody that doesn't understand them or their body for doing that.
Patients do want to receive preventive screenings.  Sometimes they're reluctant to do it because nobody wants the possibility of hearing that word given to them.  So Americans should be able to get screened for high blood pressure, diabetes when the doctor recommends these get these tests. I think you and I agree that they should be able to get colonoscopies, prostate exams, and mammograms so they can prevent deadly cancers when they are present from progressing to the point where they are no longer curable.  Many of these diseases are preventable or curable or put into remission if they're discovered early enough.
I think we agree that Senator Mikulski's goal that all Americans should be able to get preventive benefits, but we disagree that her amendment achieves that stated goal. Her amendment does not ensure access to mammograms for women who are under the age of 50. And part of that I'm taking from an Associated Press article. As most Americans know, last month the Preventive Services Task Force revised the recommendation for screening for breast cancer, advising women between the ages of 40 and 49 against receiving routine mammograms and women ages 50 and over to receive a mammogram just once every two years.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force lowered its grade for these screenings to a "C," and that sparked the political firestorm as many women became confused about what services they could get and when they could get them.  And the health care bills before congress further confused the issue because they rely heavily on the recommendations of that task force.  That's what's in the bill. The underlying Reid bill says and the Mikulski amendment restates that all health plans must cover preventive services that receive an "A" or a "B" grade from the task force. Let's see. We just said that was a "C" grade. Because breast cancer screenings for women under the age of 50 are no longer classified by the task force as “A” or “B” plans, they would not cover those services.
Senator Mikulski’s, the senator from Maryland, drafted an amendment to try to fix this problem, but I think confuses the matter some more.  I appreciate the effort that you've gone to try and clarify that and expand it to some other areas and not to add another layer of bureaucracy by saying that all services and screenings must be covered by health plans.  However, the previous amendment doesn't have any guidelines that are specifically for women or prevention.